Nison-in Temple (二尊院)

Nison-in Temple is a Tendai Sect Buddhist temple located in Sagano, Ukyo Ward, Kyoto City. Its honorific mountain prefix is Mt. Ogura. It is formally known as Ogurayama Nison-in Keidai-ji Temple. Nison-in (lit. Two Images Temple) derives its name from the fact that there are two principal image statues; Hokke no Shaka and Raigei no Amida.

The cemetery within the temple precincts contains the graves of Ryoi SUMINOKURA, Saneomi SANJO and Tsumasaburo BANDO. The path known as 'Momiji no Baba' (lit. Autumn Leaf Horse-Riding Ground) that extends from the main gate is famous for its beautiful autumn leaves. Within the temple grounds is a place believed to be the remains of the Shigure-tei Teahouse of FUJIWARA no Sadaie (or Teika) who compiled the Ogura Hyakunin Isshu anthology of poetry.

Origin and History

Nison-in Temple is said to have been constructed in the early Heian period between 834 and 847 by Ennin (Jikaku Daishi) under the order of Emperor Saga. It later fell into ruin but was revived in the early Kamakura period by Tanku, a high-ranking disciple of Honen.

The temple buildings were completely destroyed by fire during the Onin War but the main hall and kara-mon gate (Chinese-style gate) were rebuilt approximately 30 years later in 1521.


Main hall: Reconstructed in 1521
Chokushi-mon gate (imperial messenger gate) (Kara-mon gate): Reconstructed in 1521

Main gate: Thought to be the Yakui-mon gate (a gate where one roof covers both the main front pillars and the rear support pillars) relocated from Fushimi-jo Castle
Hassha no miya: Constructed during the Muromachi period
Benzaiten-do hall (hall devoted to the goddess Saraswati)

The temple grounds contain the graves of many court nobles including the Nijo family, the Sanjo family, the Shijo family, the Sanjonishi family, the Takatsukasa family, Jinsai ITO, Togai ITO, Ryoi SUMINOKURA and Soan SUMINOKURA. Within the inner area of the temple precincts also stands a Santeiryo (lit. Three Emperor Tomb) which contains some of the ashes of Emperor Tsuchimikado, Emperor Gosaga and Emperor Kameyama.

Cultural Properties

Important Cultural Properties
Wooden standing statue of Shaka Nyorai and wooden standing statue of Amida Nyorai
Housed inside the main hall. Created during the Kamakura period. On the right stands Hokken no Shaka Nyorai ("Hokken" refers to the sending of people from this world to the next) and on the left stands Raigei no Amida Nyorai (who welcomes souls into the Western Pure Land Paradise). The appearance of the clothes worn by both statues is very similar but there are differences such as the design of the legs. Statues of Amida Nyorai ordinarily depict him forming a circular mudra (Buddhist hand gesture) with the thumb and index finger (or middle finger and ring finger) but the Amida Statue of Nison-in Temple is unique as all five fingers on its lowered right hand are straight.

Color painting on silk portrait of Shoyo-in Sanetaka and color painting on silk portrait of Shomyo-in Kineda
Color painting on silk portrait of the five founders of the Jodo (Pure Land) Sect
Color painting on silk portrait of Juo
Color painting on silk portrait of Shaka Nyorai flanked by two attendants
Color painting on silk portrait of Honen-shonin
Honen-shonin Shichikajo-kishomon (Seven Article Pledge of Priest Honen) and a makie box
Homon Meigi volume one

Hondo Chokugan (Imperial scroll pertaining to the main hall): Written by Emperor Gonara, 'Nison-in.'

Kara-mon Chokugan (Imperial scroll pertaining to the kara-mon gate): Written by Emperor Gokashiwabara, 'Ogurayama.'


27 Saga Nison-in Monzen Chojin-cho, Ukyo Ward, Kyoto City


Take the Kyoto City Bus or Kyoto Bus to 'Saga Shogakko' (Saga Elementary School) bus stop and walk for 15 minutes. Take the JR West Sagano Line to 'Saga Arashiyama Station' and walk for 20 minutes. Take the Sagano Scenic Line of the Sagano Scenic Railway to Torokko Arashiyama Station and walk for five minutes.

[Original Japanese]